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Report
Access for Small Business Forum
November 20, 2009
White Plains, NY
Small businesses are the cornerstone of the New York State economy, accounting for 98% of all businesses and employing 52% of the non-farm, private sector workforce.

Even in the best of economic times, New York Small Businesses are facing insurmountable challenges due to excessively high taxes, high regulatory costs, and burdensome processes. And, now those issues have become compounded during this time of recession. Small Businesses need to know where to turn for some answers, which is why BALCONY has taken on this challenge.
 
On Friday, November 20, 2009, the Access for Small Business Forum - a four-panel discussion organized by BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York and co-hosted with The Greater New York Chamber of Commerce - addressed these key small business concerns.
 

 
Event co-sponsors included Verizon, the American Cancer Society, WCBS Newsradio 880, Saratoga Capital Management, Citizens Bank, H&R Block, Atlantis Health Plan, White Plains Business Improvement District, and the New York State United Teachers.
 
  aarp
      Lou Gordon            Bruce Ventimiglia
BALCONY Director         BALCONY Co-Chair

Panelists addressed an audience of more than 100 small business owners and community leaders who convened at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains to explore the possibilities that are available to foster growth and stability. BALCONY Director Lou Gordon noted that despite, or perhaps in spite of the economy, small businesses continue to forge ahead. In recognizing that small businesses play a role in BALCONY members lives, he set the stage for the panelists to come and share their information.

View the photographs from the Forum here: Photos
View the full program from the Forum here: Program

Access to Technology Solutions for Small Business

 
(Chris Levendos, Michael Ridley, Heather O'Donnell,
Chris Zawacki, Ron Koff, Lou Gordon)

View the panel presentations
by clicking the panel image above or clicking here: Panel
Technology Solutions Featured Speakers
 
aarpNetworks, global thinking, e-resources and IT support systems now shape the profile of small businesses. As companies integrate technology into their daily operations, they also face a new set of risks that were unheard of 20 years ago. Chris Levendos, Executive Director of Verizon FIOS, explained how Verizon opted to make major infrastructure investments to meet small business technology needs. The result, services like increased bandwidth give smaller companies the ability to transfer large amounts of data and compete in ways that were unheard of as recently as even a few years ago. VERIZON  View Chris Levendos' presentation
 
aarpThe next panelist was Michael Ridley, NYSTAR Director of Technology, who explained how NYSTAR is working to give small businesses global opportunities to compete the creation of public/private partnerships. "My fear is that small businesses, being engines of the economy for New York, don't have time to think of the global issues," he said. NYSTAR offers regional technology clusters that fuse together science and economics for the purpose of providing small businesses with an opportunity for innovation. This investment in taxpayer-provided resources is necessary to ensure that small businesses can complete effectively in the 21st century. NYSTAR
(Michael Ridley PowerPoint)  View Michael Ridley's presentation.

Heather O'Donnell, Account Executive for WCBS Newsradio 880, explained how technology has paved the way for the company's idea sharing and networking forum. WCBS offers on-line community that allows companies with less than 100 employees to exchange ideas and information, network, share advice and take advantage of special offers. "We made a commitment to embrace this new technology," she said. The result left WCBS on the cutting edge and also allows the station to commit time and resources in a manner that empowers small businesses. WCBS  View Heather O'Donnell's presentation.

 
Chris Zawacki, a managing partner in GreenHouse IT solutions, warned that small businesses should be selective before making any technology changes. He advised the audience that before investing in any new technology is evaluate how that product will improve your productivity. "Ask yourself a few questions, such as 'Is this going to make my employee base more productive,' or 'For what business critical reasons are we doing this?' " GREENHOUSEIT (Chris Zawacki PowerPoint [2003] [2007])  View Chris Zawacki's Presentation.
 
Ronald Koff, president of Astoria Graphics noted that for many small businesses, evolving technology also means cost-effective marketing and branding solutions. For companies like Astoria Graphics, the job is no longer about printing, but finding innovative ways to help businesses personalize pre-existing opportunities to command a return on investment, he said, noting, the key is "diversity". ASTORIA GRAPHICS
(Ron Koff PowerPoint [2003] [2007]) View Ronald Koff's presentation.

Click here to view the questions from the audience re Access to Technology


Adam Bradley
White Plains Mayor-Elect and
NYS Assemblyman of the 89th Assembly District
 
 

 Adam Bradley
 
In introducing Adam Bradley, the session's keynote speaker, Mark Jaffe, head of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, said that businesses today need strong leaders and White Plains mayor-elect Adam Bradley will get the job done. The mayor-elect has represented New York's 89th District in the New York State Assembly since 2002. "White Plains is the economic engine of Westchester County, as a center for business, government and retail shopping. It is incredibly important during these economic times that small businesses have opportunities," said mayor-elect Bradley. "There is no doubt that the challenges that small businesses are facing today in this economy are even tougher than in the past. These are difficult times and we are going to be working very hard to make sure that White Plains is business-friendly."
 
Bradley said that under his leadership, White Plains will continue to focus on growth and economic development, looking for new ways to provide capital and looking toward the federal government for health care solutions. The city is fortunate to have the opportunity to highlight the economic vibrancy that already exists. At the same time, he said, government must learn to do more with less while resolving specific budget problems and efficiencies. "It is absolutely part of the equation."

Click here to view Adam Bradley's presentation.

Click here to view Mayor Bradley's Question and Answer session Part 1 and Part 2

 Access to Business Development 


(Christine Serrano Glassner, William Grinker, Rosemarie Klotz,
Jim Malski, Brian Moran, Barbara Weltman)

View the panel presentations
by clicking the panel image above or clicking here: Panel
 

Access to Business Development Featured Speakers
 
While New York is typically viewed as unfriendly to small business and over regulated, Governor David A. Paterson is committed to changing that reputation, said William Grinker, chairman of the Governor's New York State Small Business Task Force and first on the Access to Business Development panel. The task force he chairs has just released a series of recommendations that are based on workable solutions. Among the suggestions:
 
Increase small business access to capital through creation of a seed capital fund to spur new initiatives, financing, and expanding eligibility of existing loan funds and debt refinancing.
Reducing red tape and regulatory reform
Developing on-line licensing process
Uniformed process of licensing
Expanding a voluntary compliance system
Create uniformed definitions for employee and independent contractor
Substantially reduce health care costs for small businesses
Support new tools and techniques that foster business growth

 
Grinker said that the on-line licensing process and an information dissemination directory of services are already available while the rest, previously vetted with the State Budget Office, will be implemented in the very near future.

View William Grinker's presentation, Part 1 and Part 2
 
Rosemarie Klotz, an H&R Block tax professional, was the second panelists in this forum. She said that small business owners would be wise to maximize their tax liabilities. Opportunities that may be available to businesses for this current tax year include:
 
 
 
 
The ability to deduct, rather than depreciate, certain new business equipment expenses
Tax credit for rehabilitation on historical structures
Tax credits for ADA compliance
Credit for developing generic drugs
Credit for using alternative fuels
Disaster relief
Energy credits
Alternative motor vehicle credit
Credit for pension plan start-up costs
Work opportunities for hiring certain targeted groups
Credit for employer provided childcare facilities and services
The worker homeownership and business assistance act of 2009

Conversely, she also warned of the importance of maintaining backup documents and receipts for any deductions since the IRS is expanding its auditing capabilities to help close the tax gap. H&R BLOCK (Rosemarie Klotz PowerPoint)

View Rosemarie Klotz's presentation.

 
The next panelist was Jim Malski, who is the founder and president of Action COACH Connecticut. He offered six steps for small businesses to maximize their profitability:
 
 
 
 
 
Have a documented written action plan of 2010 goals and hold yourself accountable
Know your numbers in your business
Target your marketing to your perfect customer
Change your sales process to get a better conversion rate
Increase your prices
Maximize value of your existing database (sell more to your existing customers) ACTION COACH

View Jim Malski's presentation.
 
Panelist Brian Moran, the founder of Moran Media, discussed the value of social media. He explained that smaller companies can benefit by incorporating social media tools into their basic marketing plan. "You don't need to know it all, you just need to know which tools work for your business," he said. Today's business owners find that not only do customers have an on-line presence, competitors do as well. "If you want to stay in business got to get involved in social media, right now, today," Moran advised. Effective business sites include places like Twitter, Google Alerts, Facebook and Linked In. Moran Media Group

View Brian Moran's presentation.
 
Barbara Weltman, publisher of "Big Ideas for Small Business", said that a small business owner could put his or her company at big risk by failing to follow three steps: think ahead, think defensively and work with advisors and experts. Sometimes, she warns, that means preparing for the worse-case scenario by paying attention to hiring practices and screening, including employment practice liability coverage, securing trademarks for intellectual property and creating a disaster plan since statistics show that 40% of small businesses never recover from a disaster. (Barbara Weltman PowerPoint) BARBARA WELTMAN

View the Barbara Weltman's presentation.
 
"Our Business Development Solutions experts identified some of the problems Small Businesses are facing in New York, and helped steer us to some of the answers. In this time where it is no longer 'business as usual' the key to survival and prosperity is to stay on top of your business basics, think ahead, and remain flexible," said panel moderator/Forum consultant and former U.S. SBA Advocate and Principal of C and M Transcontinental LLC, Christine Serrano Glassner.

Click here to view the questions from the audience re Access to Business Development.

 Access to Capital for Small Business


(Bruce Ventimiglia, Pravina Reghavan, David J. Conrad,
David Kornfeld, Paul Quintero, Louis Scamardella)

View the panel presentations
by clicking the panel image above or clicking here: Panel

Know your target audience. Who are your most important customers, clients or prospects, and why? Know what is important to them and address their needs in your newsletter each month. Include a photo to make your newsletter even more appealing. Inserting a link in your article lets you track which topics attract the most interest.
 
Access to Capital Featured Speakers

Next to access to affordable health care, accessing small business capital remains a critical concern. A variety of government and private resources are available to assist small businesses from conventional and government secured funding, to less conventional high interest loans. The Small Business Administration guarantees small business loans and also allocates funds to certain minority and socially-disadvantaged businesses. SBA New York District Director Pravina Raghavan and David Conrad, the vice president of Citizens Bank (an SBA preferred lender) said that all three entities have a strong working relationship designed to provide solid small businesses with access to growth capital.

Pravina explained the variety of new SBA programs that have been released since the passing of the American Stimulus Act 2009. After a significant drop in loans last year the SBA has been marketing their programs aggressively and have begun to see an increase in loans to small businesses through their banking partners. She explained how this increase was due to the new programs and the generous new terms of some existing programs. SBA

View Pravina Raghavan's presentation.

David Conrad warned that while making a loan request, the business owner must be prepared to answer what the money is for and what type of funding is needed. For example, he said that it is important to specify between short-term working capital or a major infrastructure undertaking. He also noted that banks are no longer interested in taking risks but looking for solid investments. CITIZENS BANK

View David Conrad's presentation.

An alternative to traditional financing is a short-term advance on future income where a portion of the funding is paid back through credit card sales. The advantage, said David Kornfeld, a financial advisor and owner of "OvertheHump Financing", is that the business owners are not held personally liable in the loan process and the credit requirements are not as strict. The downside, he noted, is that this type of funding is expensive, but it is another option available for small business owners in need of resources.

View David Kornfeld's presentation.

The key to accessing credit is understanding it, said Paul Quintero, COO/ CFO of Accion New York, a non-profit lending company. Non-profit lenders differ from traditional lends in their evaluation criteria (they tend to look at overall community contribution, as well as their ability to support innovative and new ideas that can help a company differentiate itself within an industry. ACCION

View Paul Quintero's presentation.


Louis Scamardella, who works at the Westchester Small Business Development Center noted they can work with a business owner to prepare the loan application and other paperwork that is needed for the lending process. Additionally, SBDC (Small Business Development Centers) provide a host of business preparedness training and advisory services to businesses with challenges. NYSSBDC

 View Louis Scamardella's presentation.

Click here to view the questions from the audience re Access to Capital.
 Access to Health Care

 
(Lou Gordon, Troy Oechsner, Ben Geyerhahn,
Vince Ashton, Peter Slocum, Ernie Vitolo)

View the panel presentations
by clicking the panel image above or clicking here: Panel



 Access to Health Care Featured Speakers

Access to affordable healthcare is a priority concern for New York's small business community. It is also a multi-faceted problem. Panelists provided an overview of insurance options, a preview of a federal universal healthcare coverage, and employee wellness options. According to Troy Oechsner, Deputy Superintendent for Health, NY State Department of Insurance, the ability to attract and retain skilled employees is closely linked the benefits package offered by small businesses. New York State has already taken steps to provide greater access to coverage by expanding Child Health Plus up to 400% of poverty level and by expanding the federal COBRA subsidy from 18 to 36 months and expanding COBRA coverage for children up to age 29. Programs like Healthy New York and an expansion of the successful Brooklynworks model have broadened the playing field for small business coverage. HEALTH

View Troy Oechsner's presentation. Part 1 and Part 2

In looking toward federal changes, both Oechsner and Ben Geyerhahn, New York State Project Director from the Small Business Majority, say that small businesses could fare well under a federal Universal Coverage Plan. On November 4, The Small Business Majority released its report titled "The Economic Impact of Healthcare Reform on New York's Small Businesses," which notes that, among other things, New York's small business community could fare well under the system of a public/private partnership. (Ben Geyerhahn PowerPoint [2003] [2007]) SMALL BUSINESS MAJORITY

View the video of Ben Geyerhahn here.

aarpHowever, until such a system becomes available, there are still several options that remain available for New York's small businesses. Vincent Ashton from Healthpass and Ernie Vitolo from Atlantis Health Plan discussed two such options. According to Ashton, Healthpass encourages small business owners to set a flat contribution toward their employee coverage and to offer a menu of coverage options from which to choose. Healthpass also provides a simplified administration process and staff support for New York based small businesses. (Vincent Ashton PowerPoint) HEALTHPASS 

View Vincent Ashton's presentation.

aarpAtlantis Health Plan is a physician-owned health insurance carrier that focuses on strong preventative care and offers online access for medical records, plus zero copay for generic drugs. Vitolo said that physician oversight is a key cost-cutting measure. ATLANTISHP

View Ernie Vitolo's presentation.



aarpHowever, the healthcare discussion is not complete without recognizing the role of personal responsibility. Peter Slocum is the Vice President of Advocacy for the American Cancer Society which has created a "Workplace Solutions" program designed to help employers foster employee wellness. This customized program is based on proven strategies geared toward specific health behavior, and offers proactive company policies fosters involvement in wellness programs and community involvement.
(Peter Slocum PowerPoint)
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY NEW YORK ACTION CENTER.

Click here to view Peter Slocum's presentation.

Click here to view the questions from the audience re Access to Health Care.
 
The event concluded with the acknowledgment that while that the challenges faced by small businesses are vast, solutions exist through both public and private options. The key remains innovation and determination - two traits that have already helped establish New York's small business community as the bedrock of the economy in New York State.


FORUM COMMITTEE

Lou Gordon, Director, BALCONY

Christine Serrano Glassner, Conference Coordinator, BALCONY

Allison Hirsch, Activities Coordinator & Program Designer, BALCONY

Jeanne Suggs, Video Production, Suggs Media Productions

Kevin R. Weaver, Webmaster, BALCONY

Lillian Jones, Regional Advocacy Director, Eastern Division American Cancer Society

Heather O'Donnell, Account Executive, WCBS NewsRadio 880

Mark Jaffe, President and CEO, Greater NY Chamber of Commerce

Helana Natt, Executive Director, Greater NY Chamber of Commerce

Carmine DiBattista, County Dental



For more information

Lou Gordon, Director

BALCONY | 633 Third Avenue | 16th Floor | New York, NY 10017 | (212) 219-7777
 
 BALCONY MEMBERS DIRECTORY (FALL 2009)



 

BALCONY, the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, represents more than 1,000 New York businesses, labor unions, and trade associations. BALCONY seeks common ground in the public policy debate in New York to spur economic development through the adoption of business/union friendly, socially responsible common sense laws that maintain and improve the quality of life for working New Yorkers.

BALCONY is a 501C4
Contributions are not tax deductible.

BALCONY NEW YORK
633 Third Avenue, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10017
(212) 219-7777
www.balconynewyork.com

Director, Lou Gordon: loug@balconynewyork.com